NHL Announces Comeback

28 May, 2020

The National Hockey League (NHL) announced a 24-team playoff format that was accepted by the NHL Players’ Association, becoming the largest North American professional sports league to announce definitive plans for a return.

The tournament will feature the Top 12 teams in each conference with seeds based on points percentage and calculated using every team’s record at the time of the pause. The top four seeds in each conference would automatically advance to the traditional round of 16, but seed Nos. 5 through 12 would have to play their way in.

The tournament will be played in two hub cities – supporting the Eastern Conference playoffs and Western Conference playoffs – to be announced at a later date, Commissioner Gary Bettman said. Potential cities include Chicago, Columbus, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Vancouver, among several others.

Official training camps would resume no earlier than July 1, and the season would conclude with the presentation of the Stanley Cup to the 2019/20 champion in the early autumn. The regular season was officially declared complete.

The plan includes an outline for the return of NHL players to their Club training facilities (Phase 2) and formal training camp (Phase 3), as well as information regarding the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.

Earlier this week, the league and NHLPA issued extensive protocols once players are allowed to return to their facilities. They include a maximum of six players on the ice at a time, no contact and no coaches for voluntary workouts.

The announcement follows the approval of the Plan by the League’s Board of Governors and the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

The NHL paused its season on March 12 from concerns over the coronavirus, having played 85 percent of the 2019/20 regular-season schedule that started in early October (1,082 of 1,271 games).

“At the pause, we committed to resuming play only when appropriate and prudent,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We are hopeful the Return To Play Plan will allow us to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup in a manner in which the health and safety of our players, on-ice officials, team staff and associated individuals involved are paramount. Accordingly, an essential component of the Plan is a rigorous, regular schedule of testing.

“On the hockey side, the return-to-play format reflects the League’s extraordinary competitive balance while honoring the tradition and integrity of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“The Return To Play Plan is the result of weeks of constructive dialogue with the National Hockey League Players’ Association and we are grateful for their cooperation. We also thank our consulting health experts and the local, regional and national authorities who are helping steer us through a complex set of issues.”

Following are details of the Return To Play Plan:

Regular Season
The 2019/20 regular season is declared concluded through games of March 11. The 189 games originally scheduled from March 12 – April 4 will not be played.

Since the League’s pause on March 12, the League has been in Phase 1 with teams having been instructed to self-isolate as much as possible.

Phase 2 – Early June
In early June, it is expected that teams will be permitted to return to home facilities for a small group, voluntary and on- and off-ice training.

Phase 3 – Not Earlier than First Half of July
Not earlier than the first half of July, formal training camps will begin after guidance from medical and civil authorities.

Phase 4 – Timing TBD
Twenty-four teams in two “hub” cities will compete in Seeding Round Robins, a Qualifying Round and Conference-based Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two “hub” cities will be selected from among the following:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC

Further details are available here.


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